Back to the Past Bill Buxton Shows Off 35 Years of Tech Devices

VANCOUVER,B。

C。

May9,2011BillBuxtonhadnointentionofcreatingamuseum-qualitycollectionoftechnologicaldevices。

Butoverthecourseof35years,thatsjustwhathappened。

Buxtonhasaccumulatedhundredsofitemsthatstruckhimasinteresting,unusualorimportanttotheevolutionofinteractivedeviceswatches,keyboards,mice,anelectronicdrumset,a60-year-oldtransistorradiowhosedesigninspiredtheiPod,aNintendoPowerGlove,severalEtch-A-Sketches,andeventhefirstso-calledsmartphonecontrolledbyatouch-screenfirstshownin1993,14yearsbeforesmartphonesexplodedontothescene。

Imjustbadatthrowingstuffout,jokedBuxtonlastweek,asthemoverscamebytotransporthisentirecollectiontoVancouver,BritishColumbia,fordisplayatthe2011ACMConferenceonHumanFactorsinComputingSystems(CHI)thisweek。

Alotofpeople,evenpeopleworkinginthefield,havenoideatheseobjectsexist,saidBuxton,aprincipalresearcherforMicrosoftResearch。

ThoseofusintheInternetAgewiththemostaccesstosearchengineshavetheleastknowledgeaboutourpast。

Weresoobsessedwiththefuturethatweonlylookforwards。

Ivebeencollectingspecificallytocounterthattoshowhowdeeptherootsgo。

Aleadingexpertinhuman-computerinteractions,Buxtonfrequentlyteaches,speaksandwritesonthesubjectofnaturaluserinterface,orNUI,inwhichtechnologyincorporatesmorehuman-friendlymeansofinputsuchastouch,face-andvoice-recognition,andmovementsensors。

OneofthegreatthingsaboutBillisthewayheshareshisenthusiasmfordesignandtechnologywithotherpeople,saidRickRashid,seniorvicepresidentofMicrosoftResearch。

Itsinfectious。

Italsoreflectshisenthusiasmforteaching。

Billhasbeenoneofthemostinfluentialpeopleinthefieldofdesignandhuman-computerinteractionformanyyears,andthecollectionisreallyrepresentativeofhisloveanddedicationtothefieldwhichhesimpactedsomuch。

VisitorstoVancouverthisweekcanseeBuxtonscollectioninpersonatCHI2011,oranyonecanexploreitonlineinanextensivevisualdatabasefromMicrosoftResearch。

Thecollectionhassomethingforeveryone,Buxtonsaid,whethertheyredesign-minded,technology-minded,orneither。

ButtechnologyforthesakeoftechnologydoesntinterestBuxton,evenwhenitcomestohisowncollection。

Itsreallycoolstuff,anditgetspeopleexcited,butitsnottheobjectsthatareexciting,itsthestoriesthatgowiththemtheexperiences,Buxtonsaid。

Imlessinterestedinthetechnologythanthedesign,andthestatementthattheseobjectsmakewhenitcomestodesigningthingsforpeople。

Buxtonhaswonanumberofawardsandhonorsforhiswork,whichadvocatesinnovation,design,andtheappropriateconsiderationofhumanvaluesandcultureintheconception,implementation,anduseofnewtechnology。

WhatinterestsBuxton,alongtimeadvocateofhuman-centricdesign,iswhengooddesignallowstechnologytotakeamoresubordinaterole。

Itsnotaboutinterfacedesign,itsaboutoutofyourfacedesign,Buxtonhassaid。

HowdoIgetthetechnologyoutofmyfacesoIcanfocusonthestuffthatsofinteresttomethematerialImreading,thefilmImviewing,thepersonImtalkingto,theproblemImtryingtosolveanddoingsoinawaythatbringsunexpecteddelight。

InputDevices

OnethingthatdelightsBuxtoncomesfromhislargeselectionofinputdevices,suchaskeyboards,mice,andstyluspens。

Thoughthemousewasinventedin1965,itwasntwidelyuseduntil1995withthereleaseofWindows95。

Thecollectionshowstheevolutionofevensomethingassimpleasthemousetherearemicewithonebutton,micewith20buttons,micewithascrollwheel,andotherswithatouchpad,joystickoreventelephonebuiltin。

Ifinditsomehowreallyencouraging,whenitcomestothecapacityforhumancreativity,thattheresthatmuchwecandowithamouse。

Thinkofwhatwecandowithmorecomplexsystems,Buxtonsaid。

BuxtonalsohasanEtch-a-Sketchinhiscollection,whichisatoybutisalsosimilartoawell-knowncomputergraphicsterminalmadebyTektronixcalledthe4014,whichhadtwowheelstocontrolthecursorjustlikethetoy。

Ijustloveshowingstufflikethat,Buxtonsaid。

TouchDevices

AcoupleofBuxtonsfavoriteobjectscomefromhiscollectionoftouchdevices:awatchwithtouchcharacterrecognition,andtheIBM/BellSouthSimonSmartphonefrom1993。

Thewatch,from1984,isacalculator。

Buxtoncanusehisfingertowriteoneplusoneonthescreen,andthewatchwillgivehimtheanswer:two。

Thatcostlessthan$100in1984,anditalreadyhadtouch。

Thatchiptodaywouldhavemorethan130,000timesthecomputingpower,Buxtonsaid。

Thephonehadonlytwobuttons:on/off,andvolume。

Allofitsotherfeaturesincludinganotepad,addressbook,email,fax,calendarandgameswereaccessedthroughafilmtouchsensorthatcoveredthedisplay。

Userscouldentertextwithagraphicalkeyboardorastylus。

TheonethingthatitdidnthavewasaWebbrowser。

ButasBuxtonsaid,Iguessthatwecanforgivethemthat,sincetheWebdidntexistwhentheydidthisfantasticwork。

Thephoneshowsthataspectsoftouchhaveclearlyevolved,intermsoftheawarenessofitanditspotentialandhowbroadlyitsused,Buxtonsaid。

Butthesophisticationofhowitsbeingusedisevolvingmuchmoreslowlythanitcouldorshouldbe,basedonhowlongourhistoryiswithit。

DesignDevices

Buxtonscollectionalsohousesavarietyofmiscellaneousobjectsthatdemonstrateexperiencedesign。

Hehasanormal-lookingchessboardwitharobotinsideandself-movingpiecessoyoucanplaychesswithit;oritcanplaychesswithitself。

Hehasaglobethatisthesphericalversionofagraphicstablet,aswellasaMagicCapfromthecompanyGeneralMagic,anoperatingsystemwitha3-Dinterface。

Whenyouretryingtodesignsomethingnew,chancesaretheresareferenceobjectalreadyoutthereintheworldifyouknowwheretolook,Buxtonsaid。

Thehistorianandresearcherinmewouldsayevensomethingthatseemsnewinourconsciousnessisprobablyold。

Aviewthatisreallyimportantformetofight,primarilyinNorthAmerica,isthemythoftheinventorasthelonegeniuswhojustmakessomethingoutofnothing。

JustasEricClaptonandJimiHendrixborrowedfrommusicianMuddyWaters,andWilliamShakespeareborrowedfromplaywrightChristopherMarlow,itsthesamewithtechnology,Buxtonsaid。

Alongwithhispassionfordesignheisalsoanavidhistorian,outdoorsman,equestrianandmusicianasoneSeattleTimeswritercalledhim,aRenaissanceMan。

Technologyisnotseparate,andnotsodifferent,thanotheraspectsofculture。

Ihopethiscollectionwillhelppeoplerealizethatweshouldtreattechnologywiththesametypeofcriticaldiscoursethatwebringtocinema,sculpture,painting,musicandmore,Buxtonsaid。

Iwouldhopethatsoneofthethingsthatcomesoutofthisisthatpeoplestarttolookatdigitalthingsasnotseparatefromotherthingsintheirculturalenvironment。

BuxtonscollectionwillbeondisplaythisweekatCHI2011inRoom201oftheVancouverConventionCentre。

Publicvisitinghoursare5:20p。

m。

to8p。

m。

eachday,andentryis$10,whichincludesaccesstoavideoshowcase,interactivity,andposters。